ERWIN — Although friends and family of Cody Riddle feel foul play was involved in his death, Riddle’s death was ruled an accident and the case is considered closed.
Recently, Riddle’s friends and family have held rallies locally for Riddle, an Erwin native, not only to raise awareness about the case but also to seek the re-examination of the circumstances that led to his death.
Riddle’s body was recovered from Boone Lake on the afternoon of Aug. 13, nearly 12 hours after those Riddle was camping with said they last saw him on the shoreline of an island near Boone Lake Marina, according to a previous report from the Kingsport Times News. The report also states this was around five hours after Riddle’s friends first reported to authorities that he was missing from the island and only days after he had turned 14.
Shiloh Mattos, Riddle’s friend and distant cousin who helped organize the recent rallies, said previously that those close to him found it difficult to believe Riddle drowned due to his intense fear of the water. She also said these same people feel that injuries displayed on Riddle’s body following his death point to signs he had been in some type of struggle prior to his death.
“It’s obviously a sad situation,” said Sullivan County Assistant District Attorney General Julie Canter.
An autopsy report states that Riddle’s body was located by the dive team completely submerged 10 feet underwater and approximately 20 feet from the shoreline where he was last seen alive.
In her report, medical examiner Karen Cline-Parhamovhich ruled Riddle’s cause of death as drowning and the manner of death as an accident. The report also notes periosteal hemorrhages, or bleeding between the scalp and skull.
“I specifically contacted the medical examiner with the questions ‘What is that significant of? What is that consistent with? Could that be consistent with non-accidental trauma?’ And her answer was ‘no,’ that that would be more consistent with any type of recovery of the body in terms of the dive team actually getting it out of the water,” Canter said of the periosteal hemorrhages.
Canter said SCSO officials also interviewed everyone with Riddle the night of his death, including Riddle’s father.
“There was no evidence that he was in any way attacked or assaulted or deliberately drowned,” Canter said. “There was nothing in the autopsy report that was consistent with that.”
Canter said the report also noted that Riddle had a .20 alcohol level. She said information provided by those at the scene was that alcohol was present. However, those individuals denied providing alcohol to the 14-year-old Riddle and stated Riddle obtained the alcohol on his own, Canter said.
“That could have been a contributing factor as to why he drowned,” she said.
Late last month, SCSO Detective Jason Hite presented the case to the Sullivan County district attorney general’s office for review. Canter said the office opted to seek no prosecution in the matter because there was no evidence Riddle has been forcefully drowned or beaten. No charges were sought in regards to the alcohol because other witnesses had stated Riddle obtained the alcohol on his own.
“After speaking with the forensic pathologist ... (w)hen you look at the autopsy where the manner of death was an accident, the fact that the victim did have a high level of alcohol in his system, and coupled with all the witness statements, including one from his father who was present, there was not evidence of a crime,” Canter said.
Mattos said Tuesday that she and others feel there is still evidence present to have the case reopened.
“As far as I know, his family and close friends do believe there was foul play,” she said.
Mattos said there are no plans for future rallies. Instead, she said Riddle’s friends and family members may contact local and Sullivan County officials directly to see what can be done to give the case another look.
“We’re trying to get it reopened, but a lot of the time justice delayed is justice denied, so I’m not sure how we’re going to go about this,” Mattos said.